Sunday, January 12, 2014

Getting Our Culinary Passport Stamped at Doner G

Doner G Turkish an Mediterranean Grill
3300 Barranca Parkway Suite N
Irvine, CA 92606

When we were invited to a media tasting at Doner G, I asked almost everyone that I ran into before it, if they had ever had Turkish food before. Out of the twenty or so people that I had asked, not one of them had said yes. Not surprising since only 9 restaurants in OC show up as being Turkish on Urbanspoon, and Yelp yields about the same number of results. I'm sure most people could not point out Turkey on a map, unless they jokingly pointed to Washington DC, which is full of turkeys.

Anyways, one man is trying to introduce Turkish food to the people of OC. That man is the very personable, Yalcin Aslan, owner of Doner G. Yalcin has recently opened up his second location of Doner G, (his first is in Anaheim). Yalcin's family has been in the restaurant business for over 25 years, and he has opened up Doner G to showcase Turkey's unique culture and delicious food. Turkey is a unique country because they are a country that separates Europe from Asia, and with a close proximity to the Middle East, Turkish food has a different flavor profile from any other food around.

At first glance of the menu, most Americans will see exotic sounding items, that do not register with anything they have eaten before. But look a little harder, and you will see a good deal of similarities to the more popular, Greek cuisine. They have gyros-like sandwiches, which they call doner kebab sandwiches. There's also the popular Middle Eastern staple, the falafel. The menu is separated into plates, sandwiches, salads, and sides.

This location of Doner G is in the pretty busy Crossroads Shopping Center in Irvine, which is anchored by Target, Stonefire Grill, and Creamistry. This is an order at the counter place, and then the food is brought out to you. During our visit there was a steady stream of customers, so it appears that people have definitely found out about this place, since it opened in September. The customers demographic was kind of interesting. There seemed to be a good cross section of all people, which proves that doner kebab is indeed everywhere, as is stated on their wall, which names cities where there's a strong doner kebab presence. We sat and talked for awhile, but then the food started making it's way out of the open kitchen. Let's see how we liked our first foray into Turkish food.

Starting things off were the Dolmas ($2.99 for four pieces). These are grape leaves stuffed with rice, parsley, onions, and herbs, then sprinkled with olive oil and lemon juice. I had a bad experience as a kid with stuffed grape leaves at a Greek restaurant once, and this was my first time having them again here. This version was much better. The rice was very tender, and the flavors created an earthy kind of vibe. Not overpowering, but just enough flavor as to not overwhelm the taste buds. Glad I could overcome my grape leaves phobia here at Doner G.

A little more in the comfort zone of most Americans is Hummus ($3.49). You can find hummus on grocery store shelves, and in a good many Mediterranean restaurants around the country. The hummus here is served with fresh pita bread, and drizzled with olive oil. Very smooth, but still with enough texture. The natural flavor of the mashed up chickpeas really came through here. A little more exotic, but just as delicious was the Baba Ghanoush ($3.49). This had a little more denseness to it than the humus. Made up of roasted eggplant, then mixed with garlic, lemon juice, and tahini sauce, this is then sprinkled with sumac and olive oil. I might have liked this better than the hummus. It had a big pop of flavor, and I definitely got more of a garlic feel with this. If you're feeling more adventurous than hummus, I definitely recommend this baba ghanoush.

Salads are not to be overlooked at Doner G. We got to try the Fettush Salad ($5.49) which is made up of romaine lettuce, red onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, and is dressed in an unusual dressing of lemon juice, vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil. I am usually more of a creamy dressing kind of guy, but this had a nice lemony flavor, which really showcased the freshness of the produce that they use here. Katie ended up being very happy with this salad.

Now this is what I was waiting for, bring on the protein. This is the Doner G Grill ($16.99) which pretty much covers all of the meats on their menu. This fed four of us easily. The meats here are Chicken and Beef Kebab (tender meats seasoned with special herbs and spices cooked on a vertical broiler), Chicken and Beef Shish Kebab (boneless meats, marinated and then grilled), and lastly, Adana Kebab (ground lamb which is seasoned and grilled). All of the meats were very tender and flavorful, but my favorite was definitely the lamb. A great taste to it, without being too gamey like lamb can sometimes be. It was more like a tender meatloaf, with big time flavor. The meats went very well with the sauces at Doner G. I would liken their Doner G sauce to a Turkish thousand island. It's a combo of mayonnaise and ketchup, along with some mystery herbs and spices. Not as thick as you would expect, but it added a lot to the meats here. The Jajik sauce is a subtler sauce, made of cucumbers, yogurt, garlic and mint. Kind of reminded me more of a Middle Eastern sauce. A little too mild for me, but this was Katie's favorite.

I usually shy away from vegetables, but these Falafel ($3.49 for four pieces) were fried, so since these were fried vegetables, I made an exception. They were made of a mix of green vegetables and chick peas, then served with the jajik sauce. Not too greasy, but I liked mine with the Doner G sauce instead of the jajik.

I had no idea, but the Turkish have their own version of Baklava ($2.99 for two pieces). This version is a lot less sweet than the Greek version, and is dusted generously with bits of pistachio. I liked that this was not as rich either, because that allowed me to have two pieces.

After having our first Turkish food experience at Doner G, I think Yalcin will achieve his goal of bringing Turkish food to a lot of the people of OC. Everything we had was pretty good, with flavor profiles that are new to us, but provided a great dining experience. The food is really not that much different from Greek food, so if you are a fan of Greek, you will definitely like what Doner G is offering. We for sure will be back often. Thanks to Yalcin for the invite to try his restaurant. We had a great time meeting you, enjoying your food, and seeing your passion for Turkey.

For more information about Doner G, go to their web site here:


  1. I think you should definitely check out Istanbul Grill in Fountain Valley. It definitely one ups Doner G!

  2. Sara - Thanks so much for the tip. I'll put it down on our list. Been craving Turkish food for awhile now. Thanks for taking the time to comment.